Rich in folklore, and unfortunately still extremely common – warts are one of those annoying skin conditions the majority of the population will have suffered at one time or other, and something that can be difficult to get rid of. So what causes them, and what options have we got if we happen to be saddled with one of these unsightly growths?
What causes warts?
Warts (or papilloma) are small, skin-coloured growths that can occur anywhere on the body. Caused by one of the numerous strains of Human Papillomavirus (HPV), warts occur where the virus infects the epidermal layer of the skin and creates a raised, hard blister-like lump, which whilst unsightly is generally not painful, depending on its location.
There are over a hundred strains of HPV, and each seems to restrict its range to particular areas of the body – for example, some strains will only affect the palms of the hand, others the soles of the feet, and others the face or genitals. The virus is highly contagious, and whilst historically people may have been convinced you could contract them by touching toads, the truth is far less fantastic – the HPV virus is spread through skin-to-skin or environmental contact with cracked or damaged skin.
How do I protect myself?
One of the best protections you can have against warts is to have a strong, healthy immune system that can withstand the many viruses we encounter on a daily basis. Like any other virus, if your immune system is robust enough it may be able to tackle the virus without you ever showing symptoms – indeed, the vast majority of the population will contract some form of HPV at some point, many of whom will have never been symptomatic of the disease.
This means that paying attention to diet, and eating a wide range of fresh, healthy whole foods with limited sugar intake is one of the best protections you can have. Ensure your food is rich in anti-inflammatory foods, the least processed the better, with plenty of fresh, clean water. Avoid stress if possible, as it is one of the most damaging things to the body there is, and ensure you get plenty of sleep, lots of fresh air, and lead as healthy and fulfilling a lifestyle as possible.
As well as this, there are a number of herbal and dietary supplements that may assist in maintaining a strong immune system. These include the immune-modulating herb Echinacea, one of the most well-researched herbs on the planet, and traditionally used for assisting the body in ridding itself of viral illness. Probiotics may also help support immune function and a healthy digestive system, where a significant proportion of the body’s immune cells are found. Fermented foods are a great addition to the diet for an extra probiotic boost. Several vitamins and minerals are linked to a healthy immunity, vitamin C being one of the most critical.
How do I get rid of them?
There are numerous herbal medicines traditionally thought to help relieve the body of the HPV virus and combat the growths at the site of infection. Thuja (Thuja occidentalis) is an anti-viral herb that was traditionally used to help eliminate warts from the body, and is readily available today as an herbal medicine as well as in homeopathic forms. New Zealand native manuka oil may also be of some use, as a potent antimicrobial, and neat apple cider vinegar is also commonly applied to warts and verrucas to attempt to rid of the body of them. The latex sap of numerous weeds is also traditionally thought to help kill the virus off – dandelion and milk weed (Euphorbia spp.) being two of the most common, however care should be taken with milk weed as it can be a skin irritant.
As well as herbal medicine, there are several key nutrients used to help clear up the dreaded excrescence – vitamins A and C, and zinc being the most common. All are heavily involved in maintaining healthy skin and a healthy immune system, and as such may be worth considering if you’re suffering from warts.
HealthPost carries a number of products that may help with the elimination of warts, for both internal and external use.
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